Freedom of Religion, Secularism, and Human Rights

Nehal Bhuta (Editor)

Research output: Book/ReportBook


This interdisciplinary volume examines the relationship between secularism, freedom of religion, and human rights in legal, theoretical, historical, and political perspective. It brings together chapters from leading scholars of human rights, law and religion, political theory, religious studies, and history, and provides insights into the debate about the relationship between these concepts. It draws on constitutional and political discourses not only from Western Europe and the United States, but also from India, the Arab world, and Malaysia. Chapter 1 argues that the history of the interrelationship between secularity and freedom of conscience could be seen as a struggle over the organization and management of intolerance. Chapter 2 discusses secularism in terms of the principled distance of state from religion, requiring the state to respect religiosity but oppose institutionalized religious domination. Chapter 3 deals with Arab constitutions under which religious freedom is guaranteed but also circumscribed by the interests of community, official religion, and state. Chapter 4, highlighting the tensions around proselytization and conversion, discusses the way that ‘public order’ is often invoked to legitimize a religious/ethnic majoritarian agenda. Chapter 5 reinterprets contemporary ECtHR religious freedom cases in historical perspective. Chapter 6 considers the diversity of American religion and the ongoing difficulty of defining religion for US law. Finally, Chapter 7 cites a double threat faced by Europe—on one hand fundamentalist religion, on the other negative secularism—and seeks a positive secularism to embrace diversity of all types, religious and non-religious.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages192
ISBN (Print)9780198812067
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jan 2019

Publication series

NameCollected Courses of the Academy of European Law


  • secularism
  • freedom of religion
  • human rights
  • constitutionalism
  • tolerance
  • public order
  • religious symbols
  • religious domination
  • diversity

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  • What should freedom of religion become?

    Bhuta, N., 10 Jan 2019, Freedom of Religion, Secularism, and Human Rights. Bhuta, N. (ed.). Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, p. 1-20 20 p. (The Collected Courses of the Academy of European Law; vol. XXV/3).

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

    Open Access

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